Long childhood hours were companionably spent with my father, he smoking one cigarette after the other, reading the latest bestseller, or re-reading Wodehouse, while I sprawled with the newest comic or Enid Blyton that he inevitably bought for us while returning from his many trips. And in the background, always, always, were songs from old films, whether it was on the gramophone that my father had picked up in France before I was born, or on the old radio that was always tuned to Vividh Bharati.  
It was on one of those smoke-filled Sunday afternoons that I was first introduced to Talat Mahmood. The song? Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni I remember asking my father who the singer was. I cannot claim to have fallen in love with his silken voice then, but I filed the name away, alongside Mohammed Rafi‘s as someone whose voice held magic. My dad’s collection of LPs didn’t have many Talat Mahmood songs, though. And even the radio programmes of the day played more Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi numbers than they did that of any other male singer.

It was only after my father bought home a stereo player and a regular supply of music cassettes began making their way into our house that I became more familiar with Talat Mahmood’s body of work Sangdil, Aaram, Aarzoo, Waris, Mirza Ghalib, Taxi Drivernow when my father came home, it was not only new books that I waited for eagerly; I would hurriedly ‘help’ him unpack, so I could see the new cassettes he had bought to add to our collection. 

While Mohammed Rafi remained my personal favourite all through my growing-up years, and while I would still name him as my favourite of all male singers, it doesn’t preclude me from enjoying Talat Mahmood’s songs as and when the mood takes me. 

Born on 24th February 1924 into a conservative Muslim family, Talat Mahmood had already attained a certain degree of fame before he ever set foot in Bombay. Reportedly fond of music from a very young age, he often sat up late attending musical soirees, listening to some of the great classical singers of the time. By the time he was 16, he was already singing ghazals for the All India Radio, Lucknow. He studied music for three years at The Marris Music College, Lucknow (now the Bhatkande Music Institute), and continued to sing on radio at the same time. 
In 1941, HMV, in search of new talent, offered him his first official singing contract for three songs. Taking into account the times, he was credited as ‘Tapan Kumar‘. It was decided that he would record the songs in Calcutta. The first song, Sab din ek samaan nahin tha was the harbinger of things to come. In fact, music director Pankaj Mallik was present in the recording studio when young Talat Mahmood was recording this song. When he finished, Mallik advised him to enter the film industry, and offered to sign him if he did. At the time, Talat was still studying, and so he returned to Lucknow. 
By now he was recording regularly for HMV. In 1944, his Tasveer teri dil mera behla na sakegi became such a success that it took the music industry by storm. This time, when he returned to Calcutta, he contacted Pankaj Mallik, and the latter kept his word – he signed him as an employee of New Theatres, where Talat got the opportunity to meet his idol, KL Saigal. The young, handsome singer soon received offers – not just to sing, but also to act. His first three films were filmed in Calcutta – Rajlaxmi (1945) and Tum aur Main (1947) both starring Kanan Devi (Kanan Bala), and Samapti (1949) starring Bharti Devi. They may not all have been lead roles, but they gave Talat a taste of acting, and a chance to increase his audience as a singer.
His first recorded film song was for Rajlaxmi – Jaago musafir jaago. By now, people were aware that ‘Tapan Kumar’ and Talat Mahmood were the same person; the credits first bracketed his real name next to his pseudonym, but very soon, Tapan Kumar vanished leaving behind only Talat Mahmood, and his honey-smooth vocals. 
By the late 40s, the focus of film-making shifted from Calcutta to Bombay. And young Talat decided to try his luck here as well. By the time he came to Bombay, he had recorded over 40 songs, ghazals and non-film songs included. He was known in Bombay, but when he arrived, he found that the industry was loath to take a chance on a singer who was not all that experienced as a playback singer. Except Anil Biswas, who had heard Talat sing Tasveer teri dil mera behla na sakegi and wanted to sign him immediately. Unfortunately, Talat was so shaken by his previous experiences that he didn’t show up for two meetings with Anil Biswas, even when he was summoned by the music director himself.*
One day, the music director inadvertently ran into Talat and demanded to know if Talat was already such a great artist that he couldn’t be bothered to come for a recording. He had wanted Talat to record a song for Dilip Kumar. An abashed Talat confessed that he had been afraid that Anil Biswas would also reject him for his ‘inexperience’. It says much for Talat’s talent that the legendary music director gave him a third chance. Call it luck or destiny, but his first song for the man Talat regards as his mentor, Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal (Aarzoo/1950) became a huge success. 
He built on this success, following it up with more ghazals and romantic duets with almost all the leading singers of the period. His handsome visage also led to offers of a different kind – to act, as a hero. In 1951, he put in an appearance in the Dev Anand MadhubalaPremnath  starrer, Aaram, sitting at the harmonium as he sang Shukriya, shukriya ae pyar tera. Two years later, producer AR Kardar offered him a leading role in his new film Nashaad, later renamed Dil-e-Nadaan (1953), opposite leading lady Shyama and newcomer Peace Kanwal. (Kardar had launched an All India beauty contest, sponsored by Kolynos toothpaste, in order to find a new girl to star opposite the singing star.) 
This was followed in subsequent years by films opposite Suraiya, Nadira, Mala Sinha, and Nutan. His forays into acting did cut into his singing assignments at a time when the field was filled with major singing talents in the form of Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, and Mukesh. Music directors felt that Talat, busy with his films and overseas concerts, wouldn’t be available to sing playback. (Talat Mahmood was probably the pioneer of international concert tours – his first tour was to East Africa in 1956.) And self-respecting Talat Mahmood wouldn’t ask anyone for favours.
Music directors who had earlier given him plum assignments now began favouring other singers. SD Burman, for whom Talat had rendered the sublime Jaaye toh jaaye kahan wanted Mohammed Rafi for the plaintive  Jalte hain jiske liye, and it was only on Bimal Roy‘s insistence that Talat got to sing it.  And later, when Dilip Kumar wanted Talat Mahmood to sing Suhana safar in Madhumati, Talat graciously declined. Mukesh, who was also in dire straits at the time, needed the film more than he did. This compassion too was another facet of the singer, who was always known for his generosity of spirit. It is a gesture that moved Mukesh to tears. 
By the 60s, things had taken a turn for the worse. There seemed to be no place for Talat’s voice by this time, and even though Salil Choudhary turned to him for Chhaya (1961) and Prem Patra (1962), and Madan Mohan pitched for Talat for Jahan Ara and gave him the haunting Hoke majboor mujhe alongside his friends and peers, Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey, and newcomer Bhupinder in  Haqeeqat (both in 1964), Talat’s career never quite recovered. Except for the odd song in a few nondescript films, Talat Mahmood retired graciously from film music, preferring to focus on his non-film records and live shows, until ill-health saw him leave the limelight completely.

In memory of a gentle, dignified singer, here are a few songs that I consider ‘quintessential Talat’, each one for a different music director.

1. Shukriya shukriya ae pyar tera
Aaram (1951)
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

Anil Biswas is rightly considered Talat Mahmood’s mentor. After all, it was Biswas’ faith in this young singer that made him give Talat multiple choices. But if things had gone differently, either of two other music directors would have had the felicity of having ‘introduced’ Talat Mahmood to the Bombay film industry. That credit would have gone to Bulo C Rani who composed Sundarta ke sabhi shikari for Jogan in 1946 (the film would release only in 1950) or even to Eric Roberts, a.k.a Vinod, who had recorded Jab kisi ke rukh pe with Talat Mahmood forAnmol Ratan in 1949.1 Again, the film released only after Arzoo in 1950. But destiny had other plans, and Anil Biswas continued to show his faith in protégé by giving him one song in Aaram.  
Biswas is also credited for insisting that Talat Mahmood retain the natural tremble in his voice. Certainly, Talat Mahmood always considered Anil Biswas to be his mentor and credits him with removing Saigal’s influence on his singing. Shukriya shukriya ae pyar tera is also picturised on Talat Mahmood, who appears in a cameo. Fittingly for a film that shows a heroine being wooed by three men, the lyrics by Rajinder Krishan explain the emotions of a man who realises that his love is unrequited. And if the singer knows no undercurrents, the words sting the man who is propping up the pillar (Premnath), for he is one of the wooers. 
Aankh ko aansoo diye jo motiyon se kam nahin
Dil ko itne gham diye ke ab koyi bhi gham nahin
Meharbaan jo kuch kiya achchha kiya, shukriya 
Shukriya ae pyaar teraa shukriya

2. Aa teri tasveer bana loon
 Nadaan (1951)
Music: Chic Chocolate
Lyrics: PL Santoshi

Born Antonio Xavier Vaz, Chic Chocolate was one of Bombay’s best known jazz musicians. He had his own band that played at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. During the day, he recorded and arranged soundtracks for movies, and was an integral part of music director C Ramchandra’s team. Nadaan was his debut as music director. Aa teri tasveer bana loon is reprised in the film, in the form of a sad version as well. This was the second film in which Talat Mahmood was singing for Dev Anand, a collaboration that would continue into the sixties. He had earlier sung a duet for SD Burman for Sazaa, that also released in 1951. Nirala, Madhubala’s first film with Dev Anand was released when she was barely 17 years old. She would go on to do the maximum number of films with Dev as co-star, nine in all; producers thought they looked good onscreen together. 
And so they did. But there was no personal chemistry between the two and they never did manage to create a hit team, unlike Dev-Suraiya, Raj Kapoor-Nargis, and Dilip Kumar- Madhubala.  Here, a lovelorn Dev, painting a portrait of his love, Madhubala, sings:
Bas isi tarah tum hansti raho
Sharmaati raho
Bas hansti raho
Bas isi tarah in aankhon se
Tum nayi ada dikhlaati raho
Dekh tumhari pyaari jhaanki
Main bigdi taqdeer banaa loon


3. Main dil hoon ek armaan bhara
Anhonee (1952)
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Satyendra Athayya

Talat Mahmood first sang playback for Raj Kapoor in Jan Pehchan(1950). By the time he lent his voice to Raj Kapoor again, he had established himself as a singer worth the reckoning and had already sung for the ruling triumvirate – Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Dev Anand. Strangely enough, while Mukesh had already become known as Raj Kapoor’s ‘voice’ after Barsaat (1949), Roshan decided to use Talat Mahmood’s natural vibrato to great effect in Main dil hoon ek armaan bhara. The song itself is broken up by dialogue; Raj Kapoor’s Raj Kumar is a lawyer, who is renting his premises from Roop’s (Nargis) father. In one early scene, he is invited to sing at a party at his landlord’s house, his singing enthralling not only the daughter of the house but the assembled guests. Except for one person – Shyam Sundar (Om Prakash), who sarcastically advises Raj to forget his ‘vakaalath’ and pick up the ‘dholak’.  
The guests laugh at his wit, but a furious Raj picks up the tempo and sings the last verse, promising that the glitter of wealth will soon be erased, but his words, his song, his melody, will remain for all eternity.
Ye sach hai, teri mehfil mein,
Mere afsaane kuch bhi nahin
Par dil ki daulat ke aage
Duniyaa ke khazane kuch bhi nahin

4.  Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni
Sangdil (1952)
Music: Sajjad Hussain
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan 

Sajjad Hussain was notoriously difficult to work with, and his compositions not very easy to sing. In Sangdil, an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Dilip Kumar plays Rochester to Madhubala’s Jane. The adaptation took on its own life in the Hindi version, of course, with Jane becoming Kamala, a girl brought up in an Ashram, and Rochester turned into a local thakur, a man given to his baser instincts due to life’s vicissitudes. It being a Hindi film, we also get some lovely songs, some sung by what was originally a dour, Byronic hero. Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni is an unusual song on the face of it; Shankar (Dilip Kumar) is paying court to Mohini (Shammi), describing her beauty in glowing terms, or so it seems. But if one listens closely, he is, in fact, questioning why he’s not interested in her at all… Mujhe kyun na ho teri aarzoo? even while he admits:

Teri baat-baat hai dilnasheen
Koyi tujhse badhke nahin haseen
Hai kali-kali mein jo mastiyaan
Teri aankh ka ye khumaar hai

5. Mohabbat hi na jo samjhe
Parchhaian (1952)
Music: C Ramchandra
Lyrics: Noor Lucknawi

This film, directed by V Shantaram and produced by his company, Rajkamal Kalamandir, and starring himself and his then-wife Jayashree, saw the Hindi debut of Sandhya, who had initially debuted in his Marathi film Amar Bhoopali. Sandhya would later go on to be Shantaram’s third wife. While in-house composer Vasant Desai took on the chore of composing the background music, the film’s songs were composed by C Ramchandra. This song, the sole Talat solo in the film,is picturised on the hero, Deepak (Shantaram). Blinded by a stray bullet, the young man is taken home by the perpetrator of the crime, a young lady named Saloni (Jayashree). In the process of caring for him to atone for causing his blindness, Saloni and Deepak fall in love with each other. But right now, Saloni has never known love, let alone the pangs of love.
Sandhya plays Kishori, the maid who falls in love with Deepak while caring for him after an operation. The film, of course, meanders to a tragic end, but left us with some beautiful songs, not the least of which was Mohabbat hi na jo samjhe…
Use to katl karna aur tadpaana hi aata hai
Gala kiska kata kyun kar kata talwaar kya jaane

6. Andhe jahaan ke andhe raaste
Patita (1953)
Music: Shankar -Jaikishen
Lyrics: Shailendra

A Dev Anand starrer that had Dev missing for more than half the film,Patita depended on Usha Kiron, then barely ten films old, most of them having her in nondescript roles. In fact, Patita  was her first lead role opposite a major star; her earlier outing with Dilip Kumar in Daag had seen her in a side role as the heroine’s niece. The film also depended on character actor Agha, who had a substantial role as Mast Ram, a cheerful good-for-nothing. In fact, Agha gets to lip-sync two solos while the film’s hero had to comfort himself with just one – Hai sabse madhur woh geet (inspired by poet Shelley’s “..Our sweetest thoughts are those that tell of saddest thought”). 
Here, Talat gets to philosophise for Agha’s character, even as Radha (Usha Kiron) makes her way to the top of the hill to commit suicide. His words seem to reflect her plight…

Jeene ki chaahat nahin, mar ke bhi raahat nahin
Is paar aansoo, us paar aahen, dil meraa bezubaan

7. Shaam-e-gham ki kasam
Footpath (1953)
Music: Khayyam
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Ali Sardar Jaffrey

This is the third time in recent posts that Shaam-e-gham ki kasam is making an appearance. However, it is impossible to write a post on Talat Mahmood, and not include a song that is so quintessentially Talat. In fact, think of Talat Mahmood, and chances are, this is one of the first songs that will come to mind. And the combination of Talat Mahmood and Dilip Kumar continued to mark box-office success. Unlike other songs of the period, Shaam-e-gham ki kasam was recorded over several days. In fact, Khayyam is quoted as saying that Talat Mahmood was forced to come to the recording studio on three consecutive days due to mistakes made by other musicians. The best of several recordings was culled, mixed and arranged to make the final version. ‘By the grace of God, it turned out to be perfect,’ the composer said. Khayyam is also on record as stating that the only instruments used in the recording of this song were the piano, the guitar and the solo vox (a predecessor to the modern synthesiser).2
Footpath is a dark film, brief periods of lightness appearing in the romance between Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari, especially when the former keeps thinking up excuses to send her little brother away so they can spend some time alone. Here, waiting for her, he sings with deep yearning:
Ab to aa jaa ke ab raat bhi so gayi
Zindagi gham ke sehraaon me kho gayi
Dhoondhti hai nazar tu kahan hai magar
Dekhte dekhte aaya aankhon me dam
Talat’s voice had never sounded so enticing…

8.  Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon
Thokar (1953)
Music: Sardar Malik
Lyrics: Majaz Lucknawi

Long before Tumsa Nahin Dekha happened and catapulted Shammi Kapoor to fame, he acted in many obscure movies, many of them flops. His career was going nowhere, to the point where he had thought that he would quit the industy and join a tea estate. According to Shammi Kapoor, Thokar was one of his ‘super hits’ (comparatively, of course). In fact, it was his only hit in three or four years. And while Mohammed Rafi became so closely associated with Shammi as his ‘voice’, he hadn’t yet become the only singer to sing for Shammi. In fact, many of Shammi’s earlier songs were sung by Talat Mahmood. And it was Talat’s rendition of Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon that gave Shammi one of the first (and biggest) ‘hit’ songs of his career. Composed by the oft under-rated Sardar Malik, the song had a female version, sung by Asha Bhosle. 
The verses, written by Majaz Luchnowi beforehand, could have as well represented Talat Mahmood’s own nature:
Raaste mein ruk ke dam loon ye meri aadat nahin
Lautkar waapas chala jaaoon meri fitrat nahin
Aur koyi humnawa mil  jaaye ye kismat nahin
Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon
Ae vahshat-e-dil kya karoon

9. Zindagi denewale sun
Dil-e-Nadaan (1953)
Music: Ghulam Mohammed
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

This was Talat Mahmood’s ‘first’ role as hero – in the Bombay film industry. He was cast opposite Shyama, and newcomer Peace Kanwal, the winner of the beauty contest launched by AR Kardar. In an interview with Lata Khubchandani in late 2006, Shyama narrates how she had a huge crush on Talat Mahmood, and how thrilled she was when AR Kardar called her up to offer her a role in his new film.3During the shooting of the film, she fell more and more in love with her dashing hero. She hoped to marry him. Until she read the news of Talat’s marriage in a magazine, and as she tells it, her heart broke.
It is perhaps fitting, then, that the song I chose from this movie is one of heartbreak – so full of pathos, so full of melancholy, so full of anger against God for having taken away his will to live, but left him with a life not worth living…
Bekhata tune mujhse khushi chheen li
Zinda rakha magar zindagi chheen li
Kar diya dil ka khoon,
Chup kahaan tak rahoon,
Saaf kyun naa kahoon
Tu khushi se meri dar gaya

Dost (1954)
Music: Hansraj Behl
Lyrics: Verma Malik
A philosophical musing about how one arrives alone in the world, and departs the same way, soon turns into a paean on how important it to have a friend, and to sustain a friendship against all odds. 
Ek baar saath de ke
Saath na chhodna 

Jaan jaaye to jaaye
Dosti na todnaa
Nazren na pher lena 

Munh ko na modna 
Duniya ko chhod dena 
Yaar ko na chhodna

Incidentally, Hansraj Behl recycled an old tune of his; he had composed Jagwala mela yaaro (rendered by Mohammed Rafi) for a Punjabi film called Lachchi in 1949.

11. Mitwa laagi re
Devdas (1955)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

A tale of a doomed lovestory, a tragic hero, and two women who loved him, Devdas must be the most self-pitying, self-destructive character in the annals of literature or cinema. SD Burman, given the task of setting the songs to tunes, came up with some lovely numbers – including but not limited to Aan milo aan milo Shyam saanware, Ab aage teri marzi, and Sajan ki ho gayi. This song, also penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, is quite a short one (in terms of lyrics), giving precedence to the instrumentation. In keeping with the angst of the eponymous character, this song is pure melancholy, as he sings of his lost love (whom he tried very hard to lose) and Talat Mahmood’s voice fills the listener with such sadness. 
Byakul jiyara
Byakul naina
Ik ik chup mein
Sau sau baina
Reh gaye aansoo
Lut gaye Raam

12. Sunaaoon kisko afsana
Shirin Farhad (1956) 
Music: S Mohinder
Lyrics: Tanvir Naqvi

The land of Punjab definitely seems to hold a monopoly over tragic lovestories. When I was younger, I loved these tales, Heer-Ranjha, Sohni-Mahiwal, Laila Majnu – it appealed to my romantic heart, the idea that someone would die for love. How brave of them, I thought.(Now I’m older and wiser, I wish they would have the courage to livefor love.) Shirin-Farhad is also a tale of yet another pair of doomed lovers. With origins rooted in the poetic tale of Khosrao and Shirin, written by Nizami Ganjavi, a variant called Shirin Farhad came to be a part of Punjabi Qisse an oral tradition of narrative that travelled with immigrants from erstwhile Persia. As can be expected, the story makes for a fine film; so much so, it has been filmed multiple times. 
S Mohinder, a not-as-well-known music director, came up trumps with a bouquet of ten songs, the most popular of which may probably be Guzra hua zamaana picturised on a tragic Madhubala. This song, picturised on an equally tragic Pradeep Kumar, is filled with pathos – who can he turn to in his time of woe? He has no one of his own, and he cannot tell a stranger. It appears that his happiness is destined to be trampled upon by an uncaring world. Besides, in having loved his Shirin, he has effectively lost himself.
Do hi lafzon ka tha ye afsaana
Jo sunkar khaamosh ho baitha 
Ibtida ye ke tumko paaya tha

Intiha ye ke khud ko kho baitha 

13. Ye khushi ka sama
Diwali ki Raat (1956)
Music: Snehal Bhatkar
Lyrics: Naqsh Lyallpuri

If one thinks of Talat Mahmood, it is to remember his ‘heavy’ songs, all filled with pathos and melancholy. Talat’s songs are the perfect complement to a dark night, a goblet of fine cognac and an hour (or two) of deep wallowing. (Almost as good as a pint of ice-cream!) But Talat Mahmood’s repertoire was definitely not restricted to the blues (the mood, not the music). He had some lovely romantic numbers as well, and not just duets. So it is with great pleasure that I add this light, frothy number – I daresay it was picturised on him as well, since he was the hero in this film, cast opposite Shashikala (yes, she of the vamp / wicked step-mother fame). Talat sounds positively cheerful as he exhorts his listeners to step onto the wild side –
Ulfat ki raahon mein aa
Daaman ko rangeen bana
Dil ke jahaan ko badal
Apna muqaddar jaga
Keh rahi hai fiza
Do ghadi muskura…

14. Raat ne kya kya khwaab dikhaaye
Ek Gaon ki Kahani (1957)
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Shailendra

Salil Choudhary was one music director who preferred Mukesh, Hemant Kumar and Talat Mahmood to Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. Though I also had Aansoo samajhke kyun mujhe from Chhaya(1961) on my shortlist, Ek Gaon ki Kahani starred Talat Mahmood, so it was understood that he would sing his own songs, positioned as he was as a singing hero. Another song of heartbreak as the hero leaves the village and his weeping beloved behind, and he ruminates how the sweet dreams of the night dissolve so quickly into black clouds of despair when he wakes up. The lovers are here parted by circumstances rather than perceived infidelity, and therefore, this is one of the few songs of heartbreak that do not have the hero painting his erstwhile beloved as a bewafa. Instead, he rues that his heart insists on reminding of things that he’d much rather forget. Shailendra paints word pictures of a broken heart with aplomb.
Hum ne to chaaha bhool bhi jaayen
Woh afsaana kyun dohraayen
Dil reh reh ke yaad dilaaye
Raat ne kya kya khwaab dikhaaye 

15.  Sab kuch lutaake hosh mein aaye
Ek Saal (1957)
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan

Ek Saal was not one of Ravi’s best as far as scores go – the songs were reasonably pleasant, not great – with the exception of Talat’s Sab kuch lutake hosh mein aaye, which is reprised in a femal version as well. What is interesting is that the two versions, both singing of losing everything and coming back to one’s senses, depict two different reactions – the female version is rife with her sense of betrayal – the man she’d fallen in love with was only pretending to reciprocate her love. Talat’s version, on the other hand, lip-synced by Ashok Kumar onscreen, is overcome by his guilt at his own duplicity. There is such remorse in Talat’s voice as he sings:

Hum badnaseeb pyaar ki ruswaayi ban gaye
Khud hi lagake aag tamaashaayi ban gaye
Daaman se ab ye shole bujhaaye to kya kiya 

Din mein agar charaag jalaaye to kya kiya
Sab kuch lutaake hosh mein aaye to kya kiya

16. Pyar par bas toh nahin hai
Sone ki Chidiya (1958)
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

In the middle of all these songs of doom and gloom comes a fresh take on romance. Sone ki Chidiya, co-starring the luminous Nutan, was the last film for which Talat Mahmood would face the camera. (I know the song has Asha Bhosle humming for Nutan, but since she doesn’t have any words to sing, I’m counting this as a Talat solo.)

Amar (Talat) is falling hard for Lakshmi (Nutan). A journalist by profession, he has come to interview her, and soon, the two are deeply in love, and crooning and simpering and canoodling away. This song, coming at the very beginning of their romance is rather touching – he is asking her permission to love her, for if she doesn’t, and he falls in love, he will not have the felicity of having her catch him before he gets hurt.

Mere khwaabon ke jharokhon ko sajaane waalo
Tere khwaabon me kahin mera guzar hai ke nahin
Poochkar apni nigaahon se bataa de mujhko
Meri raaton ke muqaddar mein sahar hai ke nahin
Pyaar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin phir bhi
Tu bata de ke tujhe pyaar karoon yaa na karoon

17. Dekh li teri khudaai
Kinare Kinare (1963)
Music: Jaidev
Lyrics: Nyay Sharma 

Another director-who-doubled-as-the-film’s-lyricist whom I haven’t heard of… from what I can gather, Nyaya Sharma wrote the lyrics for three Hindi films, all of which were scored by Jaidev. An under-rated, under-utilised music director, Jaidev’s limited filmography is not consistent with his undeniable talent. Kinare Kinare was a rare Dev Anand – Meena Kumari starrer, but by the time it released, Meena Kumari was already mired by personal troubles, and her professional downslide had begun. Dev Anand, too, had undergone an image makeover and was more flamboyant than his earlier avatar. The film, long in the making, didn’t exactly set the box-office registers ringing. The music of the film, mostly pleasant, definitely melodious, sank along with the film. Dekh li teri khudaai is perhaps the best known of the lot, and definitely the number that attained a certain popularity that transcended the film’s. Ironically, the song that is most remembered, was deleted from the film. Much like Zindagi denewale sun, this song too, excoriates the almighty for the fates that have conspired against him. 
Mere maalik kya kahoon
Teri duaaon ka fareb
Mujh pe yoon chhaaya ki mujhko
Ghar se beghar kar gayaa
Dekh li teri khudaai

18. Phir wohi shaam 
Jahan Ara (1964)
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

It seems only right that when it comes to the Madan Mohan – Talat Mahmood combination, I’m spoilt for choice. After all, they were both considered to be the masters of ghazal. While  Main paagal, mera manva paagal  from Ashiaana (1952; lyrics by Rajinder Krishan) andHumse aaya na gaya from Dekh Kabira Roye (1957) were both on my shortlist, Madan Mohan composed three beautiful solos for Talat Mahmood in this film, and Phir wohi shaam is a song that is very high on my list of favourites. Phir wohi shaam is an exquisite ghazal, the perfect collaboration between two giants who were masters of that art form in Hindi film music. Rajinder Krishan’s lyrics captured that feeling of woeful resignation, the knowledge that can never attain his beloved (she’s a princess, he’s a commoner) and it’s only her memories that can console his wayward heart.
Jaane ab tujhse mulaaqaat kabhi ho ke na ho
Jo adhoori rahi vo baat kabhi ho ke na ho
Meri manzil teri manzil se bichhad aayi hai
Phir wohi shaam wohi gham wohi tanhaayi hai
Dil ko samjhaane teri yaad chali aayi hai
By this time, Talat Mahmood had lost ground to Mohammed Rafi, and it was much against the producer’s wishes that composer Madan Mohan insisted that his compositions be rendered by Talat. Apparently, Madan Mohan even paid Talat Mahmood out of his own pocket.4 Alas, then, that the film sank without a trace, and despite a fabulous score meticulously crafted by Madan Mohan, did nothing to advance the careers of either the music director or the singer. The video clip that I linked to has a verse missing, and try as I might, I cannot find a link to the complete song. But this song has a third verse:
Phir teri zulf ki rukhsaar ki baatein hongi
Hizr ke raat magar pyaar ki baatein hongi
Phir teri mohabbat mein tadapne ke kasam khayee hai
Phir wohi shaam, wohi raat, wohi tanhaayi hai 

Patthar ke Khwaab (1969) 

Music: N Dutta  

Lyrics: Pal Premi 

I must confess that ‘Pal Premi’ is not a lyricist I’ve come across before; apart from learning that he also directed Patthar ke Khwaab, I’ve no idea who he is. Any information on him would be welcome. This song, though, is a very familiar and well-liked one. A word of warning, however. This song is guaranteed to depress you. So, unless you are in the mood to immerse yourself in the blues, please do not listen. It is also, on the face of it, one of those dirge-like songs that come across as a whine-fest. I mean, who can listen to:
Toota huaa dil
Tootey armaan
Teri hai amaanat paas mere
Ye dil jo tumhaara na hota 
Hum chhod ke duniyaa chal detey 

By the time you come to verse no:3, you are willing to help him to leave this world. But if you can shut your ears to the lyrics (which, I admit, is very hard for me to do), the music and Talat’s sublime voice can transport you to another world. It is hard to imagine a human voice can drip such anguish.  

20. Kadale neela kadale

Dweep (1977) 
Music: Baburaj
Lyrics: Yusuf Ali Kecheri 

I couldn’t resist plugging Talat’s sole venture into Malayalam films. Director Ramu Kariat seemed to specialise in bringing in talent from the Bombay film industry to sing in his films. Purists may quibble over Talat’s Malayalam pronunciation, but he’s doing a rather decent job of it. By this time, however, his voice had begun to deteriorate, but the emotion in his voice is still very much in evidence. Baburaj was one of Malayalam cinema’s most talented music composers, and his untimely death cut short an illustrious career. 

These are but a few of my favourite Talat Mahmood melodies, fragile, delicate, ethereal. It is well nigh impossible to list all his songs that I like, and his duets will have to await their turn in my next post. In the meantime, which Talat Mahmood songs would you add to this list? 

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Written By: Anuradha Warrier, is a writer, editor, film, and music buff. She writes for pleasure, edits for a living, and indulges in watching films, listening to music, and writing about both on her blog Conversations Over Chai as and when time permits.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and Bollywoodirect.com do not necessarily subscribe to it. Bollywoodirect.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.


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